In a short time my son will enter kindergarten. It should be an easy transition, a simple time in which his education continues and he begins to learn more about how to learn in a school environment. But for his mother and I this is not a simple decision and it is exasperated by the rat race created by fellow parents.
There is a desire, a need to provide the best education we can for him and his sibling or siblings. It is not a new issue or something that other parents have not faced. Do we send them all to public or private schools. What I do for one must be available for all, so the question of private education is very serious as I am not made of gold, at least not yet.
And unlike our parents we live in a society that makes the claim that you must start pushing the education envelope earlier than has been done in the past. The challenges of private school are not limited to paying the tuition. First you must find a way to get your child enrolled in school and if you do not start early it may be difficult or next to impossible to get them in when they are older.
In the face of this pressure rational thoughts begin to go out the window. The obligation to educate your child begins to feel more like an albatross around the neck and everywhere you look all you can see is water, water, water and more water.
So in an attempt to pull the discussion back out of the land of makebelieve and hyperbole I ask, what is the harm in public school. Can we still find a solid education for our children? Are there still students who will challenge them and help to push them to do the best that they can. I suspect that the answers are yes to all of these questions.
And I wonder if we feel this kind of pressure to try and provide for our children what does the pressure to succeed do to them. Surely you cannot expect them not to be affected by this, not to feel the burden to succeed.
What is the cost to them and to their young psyches. What damage do we do to them when we create environments in which they must soar to be considered successes. Can we help them buck the tide and make life more bearable for them, and if so how do we do it.
In my mind the answers are relatively simple, but the work is hard. Here is my formula/goal.
I want my children to learn as much as they can. I want them to work hard and to be challenged. I don’t want them to succumb to the thing that tripped up their daddy, laziness. School was relatively easy and I learned how to get by. I want them to do better than get by, but I don’t need or require perfect marks.
In a grading system in which A is the highest and F the lowest I would like to see them with at least a ‘B’ average. Better would be fine and less than is ok too as long as I know that they are doing the best that they can.
I want to extend my help to them and make life easier, but I think that it is important for them to learn how to fail. Everyone fails sooner or later and it is important to learn how to cope with that.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want them to fail any of their courses, unless that is the best that they can do. As long as they do their best I can live with that, but more importantly is helping them learn how to be secure enough that they can live with themselves.
At night, when you are alone in the dark with nothing more than your thoughts and the dark you need to be able to feel good about yourself. You must like yourself or you will not be happy. Too many people cannot do this.
Establishing reasonable expectations for school and life accomplishments will help to make their ability to like themselves easier and more likely. Or so your young father/blogger thinks.
A solid pedigree from institutions like Harvard or Yale are nice, but they do not matter nearly as much as the education itself. The piece of paper will not make you a success nor will it provide much for you, at best it may open a door or two. But those doors are not the only entrances.